Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vissoux Beaujolais Wine Tasting

I went to Weygandt Wines Friday evening in order to taste the 2009 Beaujolais lineup for Domaine du Vissoux (Weygandt also reps them as their national importer). Domaine du Vissoux, unlike most artisinal, natural wine Beaujolais producers, has a large lineup of wines ranging across several "crus" (that is villages or communes) throughout the Beaujolais region. But, unlike Georges DuBoeuf, the big negociant Beaujolais producer who is responsible for 95% of the Beaujolais Nouveau you drink in mid-November, Pierre Chermette, the owner of Domaine du Vissoux, has far lower yields and uses only natural, ambient yeasts. Thus, in these wines, you get greater intensity of flavor and you don't get those oft-putting banana aromas you find in most Beaujolais (caused by the use of 71B, an industrial yeast used to initiate fermentation.

2009 is considered one of the best Beaujolais in the past thirty years, at least by the wine press. I haven't tasted extensively, but what I have had tends to be deeply fruited, with good acidity and powerful aromatics. However, they can come off as a little simple right now without the traces of minerality and weightless elegance I more commonly associated with well made Beaujolais. Some people think these wines are shutting down and probably should be held for five years before trying again (if not longer). But, for the uninitiated, 2009 might be a good vintage to give Beaujolais a try, and if you were, I would recommend Vissoux. All of the wines seemed ready to go and were all uniformly enjoyable, while some were much better than others.

2009 Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Horizontal

'09 Beaujolais
: This is Pierre Chermette's basic bottling. I found this wine to have decent aromatics and was generally fruit forward and fresh on the palate. Darker fruited than I am used to, but that's the vintage. A little clipped and short on the finish however, with a slightly funky aftertaste.

'09 Beaujolais-Village Cuvee Traditionelle VV: One of my favorite non-cru Beaujolais, year in, year out. Much more powerful aromatics that are charged with a hint of freshly ground spices and ripe stems. On the palate, the fruit is restrained by a mineral edge, but nonetheless feels deeper and more complex than the more overtly fruited Beaujolais. Lithe and light on the palate, this wine is the highest toned in this lineup, its red fruit marked by a chalky minerality and earthy spiciness. The wine also gave my chest and throat a slightly warming sensation which, while normally considered a flaw, was actually pleasant.

'09 Beaujolais Coeur de Vendanges: This is a new cuvee from Vissoux that is made from grapes grown on 100 year old vines throughout the Beaujolais region. The densest wine in the lineup (more so than even the Cru wines), it is extremely dark fruited and bruising. You can feel the weight as you drink it, which to me is a bit atypical since Beaujolais, for me, is at its best when it is light on its feet and elegant. Good wine, but a bit strange.

'09 Fleurie Poncie: Lighter than the Coeur de Vendanges, but definitely has the weight and "seriousness" of a cru Beaujolais. Again, dark fruited, but definitely lean and focused with a refreshing acid spine. But, it doesn't have the pronounced mineral edge that I like in cru Beaujolais and just seems a little too overtly fruited. It isn't flabby or jammy in any sense of the word, and has good energy, bu perhaps it is just a little too facile for me. Utterly correct wine, I think most people would enjoy it.

'09 Moulin a Vent Les Trois Roches: Moulin a Vent is considered the cru which produces the longest lived, most serious wines in Beaujolais. Vissoux's '09 Moulin a Vent is very slick and polished. Apparently some of this wine is aged in smaller oak barrels which explains why it seemed so silky on the palate (oak allows the wine to breathe, and with smaller barrels, more of the wine can get exposed to oxygen than in larger vessels). Nonetheless, despite this, the wine was very well balanced and, while having pronounced dark fruit, still had restraint and elegance.

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